After dark on Saint Lucia’s Day, Wednesday, December 13th, we presented a four part immersive experience at the James Joyce Centre entitled “Come and See Me, I’m a Crossword Puzzle” to mark the 40th anniversary of Lucia Joyce’s death on the eve of her Saint’s day in 1982, to reclaim her as an artist, and to celebrate her overlooked creativity.
PART ONE/ CANDLES, TELEGRAMS & EXHIBITION: As the audience arrived to the James Joyce Centre, they were each handed votive candles and a triptych style programme which outlined Lucia’s overlooked career as a dancer and illustrator. From the hallway, the Saint Lucia’s day procession was led into the James Joyce Centre’s Maginni room, where they were invited to peruse archive items documenting Lucia’s overlooked 1920s dance career displayed in a Victorian glass case, and Lucia’s 1927 Rythme et Couleur sketchbook drawings, displayed publicly here for the first time ever. Before long, Lucia Joyce (Lucia Kickham) and her Jungian dream collector Cary Baynes (Kathleen Warner Yeates), started to mingle. Mischievously, Lucia handed out personalised telegrams to individual audience members. (“I have to do something to entertain the people out there”, she explained, in 1934). A bell rang when it was time for Cary to bring her charge back up the stairs into ‘Jung’s sanatorium’. The chaotic pair vanished up the stairs, and then the voice of James Joyce (David Herlihy) echoed throughout the hallway, instructing Nora (Darina Gallagher) to take a candle to Lucia for her to “burn all day”, on this, her 1934 feast day. Very reluctantly, the loudly protesting Nora did as she was told, and led the audience up the stairs into Jung’s sanatorium, where PART TWO unfolded. “Brace yourselves!”, warned Nora, to herself as much as to everybody else…
PART TWO/ REPORT TO JUNG & A DANCE: Once the audience settled into their traverse style seats, with nymph-like Lucia and her stern supervisor Cary Baynes at the top of the room, Nora entered Jung’s clinic with her candle, as instructed, and dutifully wished Lucia “Happy Feast Day”. Lucia lunged at Nora to hug her, and Cary Baynes rescued the candle. (Lucia had a thing about setting fire to things). Disarmed by this unexpected affection, Nora incited all present to wish Lucia a happy feast day as she availed of this cover to retreat out of the room as fast as she could. Once Nora was gone, Cary Baynes proceeded to give her (verbatim) report to her boss, Dr. Carl Jung, about what happened on that St. Lucia’s Day 1934. As if on cue, Lucia threw back her coat to reveal a fabulous silver fish costume (made and designed by Claire Garvey) to all. Magnetic Resonance Imaging sounds began to pulse throughout the space, as Lucia proceeded to weave her magical dance (choreographed by Megan Kennedy), to Yeats’s poem The Song of Wandering Aengus, and Conor Linehan’s original score, interspersed with samples of George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique and Magnetic Resonance Imaging jolts (as per the short film “Lucia Joyce: FULL CAPACITY”). Once she had cast her spell, to verbatim rave reviews and thunderous applause, Lucia invited all present to tea, and ritual Occhi di Santa Lucia (eyes of Saint Lucia) biscuits for her feast day, in the adjoining room.
PART THREE/ OCCHI DI SANTA LUCIA: Ushered by the debonair Jack Walsh (who played Tom MacGreevy in our Bloomsday Festival 2021 production of CALICO), the audience were invited to place their votive candles in front of our makeshift shrine to Santa Lucia, and to make a wish, as they made their way to the refreshments – hand-baked Occhi di Santa Lucia (made by Susan Leybourne of the Ulysses 100 project, and Darina Gallagher, Director of the James Joyce Centre), tea, or wine if preferred. These were most graciously served by Maura Walsh (presenter of Near FM Arts Show), and Susan Leybourne. Lucia herself and Cary weaved through the crowded room, interacting as the spirit moved them. Jack Walsh rang the bell once again, and Lucia invited everybody back into ‘Jung’s Clinic’ to hear “a talk about my career!”
PART FOUR/ ILLUSTRATED TALK: Refreshments in hand, the congregation were ushered back into “Jung’s Clinic” where they took their newly haphazardly arranged seating in front of a large white screen. Asylum-style. Dr. Deirdre Mulrooney proceeded to present them a half hour illustrated talk which contextualised what they had just been part of in Jung’s sanatorium, shining factual light on Lucia’s creativity and various treatments throughout the 1930s. She made a plea that Lucia should be given her rightful place in the cultural history of Ireland, and invited everybody to attend to the facts that she has unearthed through her extensive research so far, connecting Lucia Joyce’s career intentions with WB Yeats’ Abbey Theatre Ballets project and even WBY’s sisters’ Cuala Press artisan limited edition books industry. It is high time to give Lucia Joyce, who was unfairly erased and canceled after her father’s untimely 1941 death, the benefit of the doubt as an artist and to reclaim her posthumously as our significant artistic ancestor. Our collective Saint Lucia’s Day ritual at the James Joyce Centre made great strides towards doing just that in a most magical way – as you can see from designer Joanne Hynes’s instagram posts above. Thanks to all who took part.
This interdisciplinary event was developed with the support of an Arts Council Agility Award. The December 13th, 2022 event was written and directed by Deirdre Mulrooney; and co-produced by Deirdre Mulrooney and the James Joyce Centre. Co-curated by Deirdre Mulrooney and the James Joyce Centre, the exhibition was the result of extensive original research by Deirdre Mulrooney, as published in her essay “Fail Better: Lucia Joyce and the Abbey Theatre Ballets” in Joyce Studies Annual 2021 – all part of an ongoing project of reclamation by Deirdre Mulrooney.